Fusion energy breakthrough

Fusion done by quantum tunneling

Fusion proces: Because of a phenomenon known as quantum tunneling, the hydrogen atoms smash into each other and fuse into helium.

Is Fusion the answer for the new energy world? Scientists create hydrogen plasma, what the sun is made of.

Max Planck researchers finally succeeded in building this breakthrough reactor. And for the first time, the scientists have successfully created hydrogen plasma, the key component to nuclear fusion, and held it in a contained environment.

Inside of a generator called the Wendelstein 7-X (W7X) stellarator, hydrogen is heated up to 180 million degrees Fahrenheit and held in place by 470 tons of superconducting, super-cooled magnets.  The temperatures cause the hydrogen gas to turn into plasma, a superheated form of matter that behaves like an electromagnetic cloud.

It’s the largest in the world at 16 meters (52 feet) in diameter and the team behind it hopes to assess the suitability of its design for commercial fusion reactors.

Fusion proces

Because of a phenomenon known as quantum tunneling, the hydrogen atoms smash into each other and fuse into helium. This is an advanced version of an experiment run on the W7X in which helium was changed into plasma and fused last year.

The advancement to convert hydrogen into contained hydrogen plasma is huge because it can produce the most amount of energy using elemental fusion that we known of – leaps and bounds better than helium. This is a great advancement and they are making great headway toward ignition.

The W7X is ready to switch on. Watch the video

It took the researchers 19 years to build this fusion reactor W7X. Researchers hope, when they turn it on, it will create a little bit of the sun.

Superconducting magnets

The €1 billion ($1.1 billion/£715 million) German reactor has 425 metric tons (470 U.S. tons) of superconducting magnets, which need to be cooled down to almost absolute zero, and between those magnets there are 250 ports to supply and remove fuel, to position diagnostic instruments and to be able to heat the plasma inside using microwaves.

The construction of such a complex machine could only be done using advanced 3D software.

“It can only be done on computer,” Thomas Klinger, leader of the project. “You can’t adapt anything on site.”

30 minutes

W7X should be able to operate with up to 30 minutes of plasma discharge. If the machine ends up doing so, it will become a serious contender to the technology employed in fusion reactors in the future. The current record holder is the French tokamak ‘Tore Supra with six minutes and 30 seconds.

The reactor should be turned on by the end of November, and it is currently awaiting approval for the go-ahead from the German nuclear authority.


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